Please note: It is unlawful to collect or otherwise harm any of the wildlife found in Mead Botanical Garden.
Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
The raccoon is known as a bandit, not just because of its foraging abilities, but because it acts like a burglar. They are stealthy, quiet, and have mask-like markings on the fur around their eyes. They are so quiet, you will probably never see them unless you are very quiet. Raccoons are omnivorous, meaning that they eat both plants and meat, and most anything in between. They are susceptible to many different diseases, including rabies and distemper, though it is fairly rare. Regardless, it is best to watch them from a distance and not have any contact with them at all. The raccoon is one of the most adaptable and widespread native mammals in both the United States and in Mead Garden.
Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
The Virginia opossum is known widespread as the “Possum.” It is a marsupial, one of the few in the United States, which means that when it has young, it carries them around in a pouch by its belly. It has a brain smaller than most animals its age, and it is apparently less intelligent. When threatened, the possum hisses or plays dead. They eat almost anything, from carrion to grass. The opossum is one of the most adaptable and widespread native mammals in both the United States and in Mead Garden.
Gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
A gray squirrel’s territory generally covers less than two acres, but in Mead Garden, they wander the entire park. They eat acorns, seeds, fruits, and other vegetation. It’s not know for gray squirrels to eat meat, but under certain circumstances, they will. They live about six years.
Flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)
The flying squirrel is common in urban areas like Mead Garden. Squirrels occur in woodland and urban areas, especially near oaks and hickories, and are active during the day, often feeding on the ground. Flying squirrels don’t actually fly, but glide from tree to tree or down to the ground as a means of escape. They eat the same foods that the gray squirrel does. The flying squirrel is about half the size of a gray squirrel and will have 2 to 3 babies per year.
North American river otter (Lontra canadensis)
The river otter is a long, elongated water loving animal found throughout Florida, except in the Keys. It’s legs are short and have webbed toes for swimming. The ears appear large on it’s small flattened head. River otters seem to prefer fresh water, and can be in rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and swamps. Otters live in burrows on the bank of the water body, often under the roots of a tree. They normally feed on animals such as crayfish and fish.
Seminole bat (Lasiurus seminolus)
Seminole bats are closely related to the Eastern red bat and are very similar in appearance. Their wingspan is between 11 and 13 inches, and their body length is between 1.8 and 2.7 inches. The Seminole bat is a solitary animal. It usually roosts in pine trees and Spanish moss. This bat is insectivorous, meaning that it feeds on moths, beetles, tree bugs, flies, and other insects. It can be seen hunting for insects around streetlights. Females usually give birth to three or four pups, but sometimes to only one or two. The young are normally born in mid-May through mid-June.
Marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris)
The marsh rabbit is smaller than the cottontail rabbit, and has smaller ears. It is usually brown or light brown in color.The marsh rabbit is nocturnal, foraging at night for food. It eats sugar cane, cattail, rushes, and the leaves and twigs of woody plants. During the day, the marsh rabbit is hidden in a shallow depression called a “form”, dug from the soil beneath dense brush or other vegetation. Major predators of marsh rabbits include hawks, owls and alligators. The young are often eaten by feral cats or large snakes.
Feral cat (Felis catus)
Feral cats are cats that are either born in the wild from stray cats, or cats that are turned lose by their previous owners. Feral cats do not have a home and live in the wild. These cats are not tame and carry many diseases. They also prey on local wildlife. A single feral cat can kill 100 birds or small mammals per year. These cats are not part of the natural eco-system. They look just like a cat you may see in your neighborhood, but they are not to be touched or caught. These cats are sometimes fed by people who think they are helping the cat. They often carry rabies.
Banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata)
The three different species of water snakes found in Mead Garden grow from 8″ when born to 48″ when adult. Banded water snakes are typically gray, green-gray or brown in color, with dark crossbanding. Many specimens are so dark in color, their patterning is barely discernible. They have flattened heads, with small eyes that have round pupils, and keeled scales. Species like the banded water snake display distinct banding, where other species, like the brown water snake, have black squares or blotching on a brown background color. The green water snakes are olive green, black or some combination therein, with markings being brown or black.
Brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota)
The appearance of the brown water snake leads them to frequently be mistaken for other snakes which share the same habitat, including the venomous cottonmouth. However, there have never been sightings or captures of cottonmouths in Mead Garden in over 40 years. All of the water snakes are much more common than the cottonmouth, and unfortunately, human ignorance and fear often lead to them being killed. Water snakes, as their name implies, are largely aquatic. They spend the vast majority of their time in, or very near permanent sources of water. Often they can be found basking on tree branches.
Green water snake (Nerodia floridana)
The green water snake’s primary diet consists of fish and amphibians, and they are quite adept at catching both in their aquatic environment. While their initial instinct is to flee when disturbed, they do typically have a nasty disposition, and do not often hesitate to strike or bite if handled. They will often expel a foul smelling musk from their cloaca.
Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus)
Named for a yellow band around the neck, the ringneck snake is relatively easy to identify when encountered. Its back is either slate gray or black, giving it a satin-like appearance. A complete yellow ring just behind the head distinguishes it from other snakes. The belly is bright yellow or rarely orange, and may occasionally bear a few small black spots. Ringneck snakes prefer moist areas for their habitat. This is also the same habitat for an important prey species: earthworms. They also eat insects. They are generally found under rocks, logs, boards and debris during the day.
Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalus)
The pattern on these snakes consists of one or three longitudinal stripes on the back, typically red, yellow or white. The snake got it’s common name because people described the stripes as resembling a garter. In between the stripes on the pattern are rows with blotchy spots. Even within a single species, the color in the stripes and spots and background can differ. In some species, the stripes vary little in color, from the adjacent bands or background, and are not readily seen. Most garter snakes are less than 24″ long, but can be larger. The average size for an adult is between 28 and 36″. They eat fish, frongs toads, and even earthworms.
Corn or red rat snake (Elaphe gutta)
Corn snakes prefer habitats such as overgrown fields, forest openings, trees, and abandoned or seldom used buildings and farms. In Mead Garden they can be found just about anywhere. They are constrictors, like boas and pythons from other countries. All of the rat snakes are non-venomous. Corn snakes eat all types of rodents, especially rats, mice and squirrels. They also will eat birds and their eggs. These snakes are very helpful to the environment. They can grow up to 6′ long.
Yellow rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata)
This rat snake, like all rat snakes, is a constrictor, meaning it suffocates it’s prey, coiling around small animals and tightening it’s grip until they can longer draw breath, before eating them. Though they do consume mice and rats, the yellow rat snake also willingly eats squirrels, birds and bird eggs. In captivity, they have a reputation for being “vacuum cleaners,” and will eat almost anything placed in front of them. Adults can become quite large and are known to reach up to 8′, being one of the largest snakes found in Florida. Yellow rat snakes are usually non-aggressive. They are non-venomous.
Ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus)
The ribbon snake is found through out Florida and is a common relative of the garter snake, although ribbon snakes are much thinner (hence the name). Ribbon snakes eat the same variety of foods that garter snakes eat, and share the same habitat. It is one of the most adaptable and widespread native snakes in both the United States and Mead Garden.
Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon bauri)
Mud turtles are small turtles, between 4 and 6″ with a highly domed shell, that has a distinct keel down it’s center. Females are generally larger than the males, but males have a much longer tail. They can be black, brown, green or yellowish color. Some do not have shell markings, but some others have radiating black markings on the edge of their shells. Some species have distinctive yellow striping along the sides of their head and neck. They are native to North and South America. They typically eat small fish, freshwater shrimp and crayfish.
Snapping turtle (Condylura cristata)
Common snapping turtles are noted for their pugnacious dispositions when out of the water, their powerful beak-like jaws, and their highly mobile head and neck. They have rugged, muscular builds, with ridged shells (though these ridges tend to be more pronounced with younger individuals). The carapace length in adults may be nearly 20″ (though 8 to 14″ is more common). It weighs between 10 to 35lbs. Exceptional individuals may reach 75lbs. Snappers have lived for up to 39 years in captivity, while the lifespan of wild individuals is estimated to only be around 30 years.
Peninsula cooter (Pseudemys peninsularis)
The peninsula cooter is a fairly large turtle (up to 12″) often seen basking on logs along the banks in Mead Garden. The olive or brown carapace is slightly flared in the back. The underside of some marginals are marked by doughnut-shaped dark spots with light centers. The plastron and bridge have dark markings, particularly along the seams between scutes. The head and neck have numerous yellow “hairpin” strips. The postorbital stripe is not as broad as with the slider turtle, with which it might be confused. Males have straight, elongated front claws, This species is predominantly herbivorous, meaning that it eats vegetation like lily pads, water hyacinths, and eel grass.
Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)
This is a medium-sized turtle, up to 12″ as an adult, and can be recognized by a red stripe down each side of the head, and the rather oval carapace.These turtles are not native to Florida, but actually from the Mississippi River area. Many people turn these turles loose in the wild when they get tired of keeping them, so they have adapted to life here in Florida. They eat small fish, frogs, toads, etc. when little and switch to herbivorous foods when adult. Young turtles will have a bright shell color and markings. As these turtles age, shell color tends to darken and markings will fade, including the “red ears.” Males have very long front claws and a longer tail than their female counterpart.
Softshell turtle (Trionyx ferox)
The Florida softshell turtle typically has a dark brown to olive green, leathery carapace, with a white or cream colored underside. They have a long neck, an elongated head, with a long snorkel-like nose. They are very strong swimmers. Juveniles have dark blotching, which fades as they age. They grow to a large size, from 6 to 25″. The turtles eat fish and amphibians. Softshell turtles generally have a bad attitude, and will bite.
Broadhead skink (Eumeces laticeps)
The broadhead skink gets its name from the wide jaws, giving the head a triangular appearance. Adult males are brown or olive brown in color, and have bright orange heads during the mating season in spring. Females have five light stripes running down the back and tail. Juveniles are dark brown or black, and also striped with blue tails. These animals eat insects. Broadhead skinks can bite and deliver a painful pinch, but are not dangerous to humans.
Green anole (Anolis carolinius)
The green anole can reach a total length of around 6″. Females are smaller. The male has a dewlap-pink or light red in color that can be extended from the chin as a courtship or territorial display. Green anoles can have a green or brown body color, depending on mood, time of day, their surroundings, and temperature, with a white underbelly. As a defense mechanism, their tails detach with mild force. The lost tail piece is left twitching as a distraction so the lizard may escape safely. Missing tails will regenerate, but often the new tail is usually not as functional.
Glass lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis)
The name for this slender creature is appropriate. When caught, this reptile will energetically twist and jump, trying to escape, and in the process, may shed its tail which can break into many pieces—hence the name, glass lizard. Also called the glass snake or legless lizard, the glass lizard has a pointed snout, narrow head, and a long body with no limbs. glass lizards differ from a true snake in that they have eyelids and external ear openings, which snakes lack. The averate total length is between 18 and 24″, two-thirds of which may be the tail. The body is tan, brown or bronze. A dark brown to black stripe runs along the middle of the back from head to tail. Like other lizards, they eat insects.
American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
The American alligator is a large reptile, up to 500lbs. Femaies average 8′ long, with males averaging 11′. The length of an alligator may be estimated by measuring the length of their snout. Each inch from the tip of the snout to the eyes, equals about one foot of length. They like shallow lakes, ponds, and rivers, and eat turtles, snakes, birds, and other small mammals, often feeding at night. Most alligators are afraid of people. It is against the law to feed, tease or catch an alligator.
Green tree frog (Hyla cinerea)
The frog is medium-sized, up to 2.5″. Their bodies are usually colored green, with shades ranging from bright yellowish olive to lime green. The darkness of the color can change, depending on the lighting or temperature. There may be some small patches of gold or white. They also may have a white, pale yellow, or cream-colored line running from the jaw or upper lip to the groin. They have smooth skin and large toe pads. The abdomen is pale yellow to white. Males have wrinkled throats (indicating the vocal pouch). Like most frogs, they eat insects.
Leopard frog (Rana pipens)
Leopard Frogs are recognized by their green or brown coloration, with distinct light-edged dark spots across the back and white underside. Some specimens also have a light marking on the center of their ear (tympanic membrane). Males have two vocal sacs, located on both sides of the body, used to attract mates and establish territory. The adult ranges in size form about 2 to 5″ in length, with females generally larger than the males.
Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)
The Cuban Tree Frog is one of the most adaptable and widespread non-native amphibians in both the United States and in Mead Garden. The frog ranges in 1.5 to 5.5″ in length, and are anywhere from a gray, light brown to pale green color. They also have the ability to switch between these color variations, depending on their environment, but they usually have a mottled pattern (slightly spotted), with some banding on their legs. Some also have yellow coloring tucked around their leg areas. Males are smaller than the females, and have darker throats during the breeding season. The Cuban tree frog is a highly invasive species. It out-competes native tree frogs for food and shelter. It has also been known to eat native tree frogs.